Spending sprees and glitzy overhauls with marquee names? That didn’t work for the Washington Redskins in 2000. It didn’t work for the would-be “Dream Team” of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
Can the Rams make it work now?
It will be interesting to watch.
It has been an eventful offseason indeed for the Rams, who have bolstered — they hope — the roster of an NFC West-winning team by trading for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as a free agent after he was released by the Miami Dolphins.
Suh, Peters and Talib have totaled 12 career Pro Bowl selections among them. Cooks is a three-time 1,000-yard receiver in four NFL seasons for the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.
“If it’s trades, if it’s free agency, if it’s through the draft or it’s just re-signing our own, those are things that we’re going to explore and we’re going to do,” Rams Coach Sean McVay said last week in Orlando at the annual league meeting, before the Cooks deal with the Patriots was completed Tuesday. “I think one of the things [about] being able to play in such a unique environment and atmosphere like L.A., it provides an opportunity to take advantage of that. And that’s something that we want to be proactive about, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
The Rams did pay attention to their NFL history lessons, McVay said last week. They simply chose to ignore them in hopes of writing a new history for themselves with their attention-grabbing roster tweaking.
“That’s something that you absolutely look into,” McVay said in Orlando. “I think when you just look at … different situations that kind of recreate history, if you will, for us, what we look at is each individual piece or each individual player that we wanted to add. We felt like the main reason is these are guys that love football. They’re about the right stuff and they’re obviously very talented football players. And we felt like if they came in, they’ll fit with what we’re trying to accomplish. They fit within the framework of the scheme, especially when you talk about those three defensive players with the way that we want to operate defensively. We felt like it was going to be a good fit.”
The Redskins of 2000 brought in cornerback Deion Sanders, defensive end Bruce Smith, safety Mark Carrier and quarterback Jeff George, adding them to a team coming off an NFC East title. They went 8-8 and fired their coach, Norv Turner, with three games remaining in the season.
The Eagles of 2011, coming off the NFL owners’ lockout of the players, added cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Jason Babin, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young, among others, to a team coming off three straight playoff seasons. Young dubbed it a Dream Team. But its play was far from dreamy, as the Eagles sunk to 8-8 and missed the playoffs in coach Andy Reid’s second-to-last season with the franchise.
Those predicting greatness for these Rams are forewarned.
The Rams have plenty going for them. They are adding to a good team, not attempting to fix a bad one. They made McVay the youngest head coach in modern NFL history last year, and he quickly proved to be the real deal. He made the Rams relevant in L.A. and significant again in the NFL. He turned Jared Goff into a franchise quarterback and helped tailback Todd Gurley to finish second in the league MVP balloting.
McVay is the reigning NFL coach of the year. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the reigning NFL defensive player of the year. The newcomers on defense are being led by a legendary defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips.
“The biggest thing that we felt like is when you do your vetting process and you look into just adding people like that, you want to find guys that love football,” McVay said at the league meeting. “And we felt like the three players especially when you look at Marcus, Aqib and now Ndamukong, these guys love football. They’re passionate about it. And you feel like if that exists, then everything else will kind of fit. I think they understand exactly kind of the way that we want to operate organizationally. They felt like hey, you know what, this is the place that they want to be. And we’re excited about adding players of that caliber. I think it’s going to be fun to play. I think the defensive coordinator has more swag than all of them. So we’ll be in good shape.”
The potential upside is that Cooks gives Goff a game-breaking receiver to make the offense even better, Suh teams with Donald to form an impossible-to-block middle of the defensive line, and Peters and Talib smother opposing receivers to the point that Phillips can dial up anything he wants on defense. That could be a Super Bowl-winning formula.
But McVay and Phillips now face the considerable task of making it all work, of keeping all the personalities and egos in check to form a cohesive and fully functional team. If the Rams fail, it could be a spectacular failure indeed.
Either way, it should be a sight to see, right there in the nation’s entertainment capital.
“All of it’s on paper right now,” McVay said last week. “But I think we do feel really good about adding the two corners that I don’t think it really matters what system you’re playing, they’re going to fit. Their production kind of speaks for itself. And then Ndamukong, the same way. It’s about continuing to figure out how we can be connected as a team, how we can really commit to each other and be the best version of ourselves, ultimately to be a great football team. That’s what football entails. It’s something that we felt like was going to help us improve and get better. We’re excited to see how that thing meshes and molds together as the offseason program starts up here in a couple weeks.”